In the Middle Ages, just as pancakes were reemerging as a daily food across Europe after a hiatus of several hundred years, the custom to eat fried food as well as dairy on Hanukkah was becoming popular among the Jews, especially in Spain and Italy.

The Jews of Sicily had been known for their ricotta making. In the wake of the Spanish Inquisition, as the Jews of Sicily are expelled from the island and make their way northwards into Italy, they bring with them the ricotta making tradition.

Thus emerges the classic Italian fritter of ricotta mixed with some flour and fried in olive oil. Simple to make and requiring minimal effort from the home cook, they become traditional fare all year round; but in Jewish homes, they are part of the Hanukkah celebrations.

To make the recipe more accessible, we have replaced traditional olive oil for frying with vegetable oil. We have also strayed from the tradition by eliminating the lemon rind that is entirely traditional, but sadly not to my children’s liking. Feel free to add it back in, along with the vanilla.

  • Vegetable oil for deep frying
  • 290g (10 ounces) full-milk ricotta
  • 2 eggs
  • 40g (3 tablespoons) superfine sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 190g (1½ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 100g (½ cup) superfine sugar, for dusting
  1. In a deep fat fryer or in a dutch oven fitted with a thermometer, heat 5cm (2 inches) of oil to 160℃ (325℉)
  2. In a large bowl whisk together the ricotta, eggs, sugar, and vanilla until very well combined.
  3. Add the baking soda and salt to the mixture along with half the flour, still using the whisk. Switch to a spatula, and keep on mixing and adding the remaining flour a bit at a time, until all the flour is combined. You should have a dough that is very soft and sticky.
  4. Shape the dough into small balls of about 1 ½ cm (¾ inch), and place on a plate ready to be fried. Lay out a plate lined with paper towels and a second large plate with superfine sugar for dusting.
  5. Drop a dough ball into the hot oil, DO NOT CROWD THE PAN! You will have to do this in batches. Cook the fritters for 5-6 minutes, turning constantly until the fritters/doughnuts are golden brown on the outside and cooked through in the center. Remove from oil with a slotted spoon and drop onto the paper towel-lined plate, drain for 30 seconds before rolling in the superfine sugar.
  6. These are best eaten the day they are made.